Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A watch

According to my dad, Papa (his maternal grandfather) was a really great guy. He was a quiet, gentle person, and probably the only one in the world who could put up with my great-grandmother, Little Mama. Unfortunately, I didn't get to know him as well as I would've liked, as he passed away while we were on our first stint in Argentina, so the last time I saw him was when I was nine years old.

When he died, the only thing he willed to anyone was his watch, which he left to me. At the time I thought it was pretty cool, but didn't think much of it. What's a teenager going to do with a stuffy old watch? So I left it in a drawer, where it's sat, moving from place to place with us, for many years.

About two months ago I got to wondering about that watch and why it was so special to him and, more significantly, why he would've wanted me to have it. According to my grandmother, it was given to him by his father-in-law, Little Mama's dad. Grampa Dudd (I hope I got that name right) was a typical early 20th-century man: he worked hard, he was a harsh disciplinarian, and he rarely if ever showed emotion. He came from a poor rural background where it was a man's place to provide for his family, but a woman's place to care for them. At some point, he realized that his son-in-law, Papa, was a pretty special person for having married his spitfire of a daughter. Grampa Dudd gave Papa this watch as a gift, an act which amazed the family given his rough personality. My grandmother told me that Papa always really liked me and that he wanted his first great-grandchild to have his watch.

When I pulled the watch out of the drawer I assumed it wouldn't work. Amazingly, after winding it up, it started ticking away. Here's what it looked like at first:

I took it in to a jeweler and had some extensive repair work done, including refinishing the face and replacing the stainless steel band with a brown leather one. I got it back this weekend, and this is what it looks like now:

You'll notice that the face is far less yellowed and has a beautiful pearly look to it. I'm not exactly sure how old the watch is - I've done a little research and it appears to be a model from the late '60s or early '70s, although my grandmother seems to recall Papa receiving it in the early '60s. I'm still considering having the crystal replaced as it's pretty scratched up.

It's definitely not a very modern-looking watch. It's small, much smaller than the Citizen I usually wear. I wore it yesterday to work and it looks pretty cool with a long-sleeve shirt. It certainly won't be an everyday watch; maybe just the occasional trip to church or nice dinners.

Anyway, thanks for the watch Papa. I'm sorry I didn't appreciate it at the time, but I love it now. I wear it with pride knowing that it meant so much to you, who meant so much to others. I promise to take good care of it, and I'll make sure your great-grandson gets to wear it some day too.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


And so ends one of the most bizarre, enlightening, tedious, and personally rewarding processes of my life. Tonight, Clear Lake Baptist Church voted to call Dr. Glenn Young of Devine, Texas, as their new pastor. And with that vote, the commission given to the Pastor Search Committee was completed. We first met back in April of last year. Since then we've met countless times, reviewed 130-some-odd resumes, I've traveled to Europe, Asia, and Canada, my son has gotten glasses, and my wife has born a child. As cliche as it sounds, I've learned far more about myself and how I can relate to God than anything else.

I've learned a lot about how committees should operate - and how they shouldn't. I've learned that the Baptist form of democracy is insanely complex, overly tedious, but strangely enough, it works well. I've learned that God can speak through his Word, through his people, and through an objective process of sitting around a table and scanning resumes.

Most of all, I've learned to my intense amazement that nine people, all of whom have completely different perspectives on life, different relationships with their God, and enormously different personalities, can in fact come to a unanimous agreement on the Will of God. That's something that could only happen when those individuals truly want the Will of God. I guarantee you that I could never get nine people at work to agree on what day of the week it was, but somehow God was able to poke and prod this motley crew of engineers, a hairdresser, a retiree, a principal, and counselors until we all agreed that we'd heard His Voice.

Praise God.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Worthless rewards

I got to thinking the other day about a very strange human phenomenon: rewarding someone with something of no (or negligibly small) value. Let me give a few examples.

There's a recent trend in video gaming of rewarding someone with "Achievements." For example, if you collect all ten stars on a particular level of a game, the game will reward you with the "Superstar Achievement." Or if you finish a level in less than one minute, you'll get the "Speed Demon Achievement." Keep in mind that these achievements don't give you any sort of advantage in playing the game, they're an end unto themselves. Other players can view what achievements you've attained, so they're worth some bragging rights, but that's it. It doesn't cost anything for the developers of the game to give them to the player - the value of the Achievement lies simply in having and being able to say you have it.

Another example: When a sports team wins a game, they're given a trophy. I suppose trophies have some minimal "real" value in that they could be melted down and sold as raw material, but I suspect that rarely happens. The reward itself is the only reward: it has no monetary or economic value.

One last example: When a child does well on a test or school project, the teacher will give them a sticker as a reward. Stickers cost a negligibly small amount, so the worth of that reward is entirely perceived.

So what is it about humans that will make us satisfied to be rewarded with something that has no real value? If we were truly pragmatic, wouldn't we be satisfied only with money, or food, or at least something we could use?